As my son and I stood looking down upon the backyard garden from his three story high sleeping porch at dusk one evening, he told me about the wishing star
. Dickie, a neighborhood playmate, had explained all about it to him that day.
"If you look at the evening star over your left shoulder," he explained, "and make a wish, it will come true." He was not yet four, but his earnest dark eyes darkened even more with the intensity of the thought of this mysterious power.
"Why don't you try it?" I asked.
So he did. He turned his back and looked slowly over his left shoulder at beautiful Venus, twinkling sweetly in the gathering dusk. His lips moved silently as he solemnly made his wish.
"What was your wish?" I asked when he turned again to survey the full view.
"I wished for a cowboy suit," he innocently whispered. In the following days I pondered the problem. How could I get his cowboy suit for him so he would think his wish came true? As the days grew steadily longer, I found my answer. Easter was coming soon, and the Easter bunny could bring it! My husband and I hid the colored eggs and the candy among the sprouting perennials in the same garden surveyed when my son made his wish. Under the delphinium leaves just large enough to provide cover this early in the year, we placed a package containing the cowboy suit.
He found it last, after he had filled his basket with eggs and candy mixed well with remnants of last fall's leaves. His excitement was so great, he dropped the basket, spilling the eggs and candy on the cold grass, and tore open the package.
We watched for his reaction when he saw the cowboy suit. "I got it! I got it!" he shouted. Right there he put in on, over his pajamas and jacket and slippers. Then, ignoring his basket, he started to run down toward Dickie's house. He rang the doorbell steadily until Dickie appeared.
"Where is your puppy?" my son asked.
"What do you mean?" answered Dickie, still half asleep.
"See my cowboy suit!" my son exclaimed. "The Easter bunny brought it! Didn't he bring your puppy too?"
"No," said Dickie slowly, "we don't celebrate Easter. I don't have my puppy."
Dickie never got his puppy. Not only was his family Jewish, but they were also wealthy, and a puppy would forever ruin the lovely wall-to-wall carpet in their home. I'm sure his clever and loving parents would never participate in such a ruse anyway, even if they knew also about secret wishes made on wishing stars.
I've wondered in retrospect why I contrived to confuse my son about the wishing star. How in this modern, scientific world, did I think such an experience would prepare him for life? I can't justify it on a logical basis, but I can on an emotional one. I wanted him to keep his sense of enchantment with the mystery of life.
Today, as a man grappling with the scientific problems of our age, he flings angry comments at me saying, "I keep stumbling on aspects of my being that I can trace to you, but I cannot throw them off. They are too much a part of what I am."
I listen gravely while he rants, so proud of what he is. Logic is his path to Truth today but, as through reason he unties the knots of mystery still surrounding our material world, the use he makes of this knowledge will always relate to the Mystery beyond. He will never be a "cold" scientist. The next time I see a wishing star, I'm going to present my left shoulder and make a wish. And what will it be? I'm going to wish that he teach his son to wish on the evening star.